Is public shaming pro-life?

contributed by Jackie O’Brien

Notre Dame’s Right to Life club puts on “Respect Life” week, every year in October. Normally, it entails a display of roses on campus, some sort of food/clothing drive and a prayer service at the Grotto. This year, however, they took it to a new level and engaged in a highly dangerous, divisive activity aimed at publicly shaming women who have made the difficult decision to have an abortion or are in search of reproductive health care.

South Bend has one of the only remaining active abortion clinics in the state: Whole Woman’s Health Alliance. The clinic has been under constant attack by the state, with Attorney General Curtis Hill attempting to bar the clinic from opening. This effort was blocked by a federal judge who ruled last May that the clinic could open without a state-required license, pending final approval. The right of a woman to make her own health care choices is something that has been under constant attack in Indiana.

It was in this context that at the culmination of Respect Life week, the Right to Life club conducted a “vigil” on a Saturday morning at the center. Participants, like Notre Dame senior Brennan Buhr, claimed they were used the rosary to pray for an end to abortion everywhere and the “conversion of souls.” Attempting to off-put justified criticism, participants claimed the clinic was closed at the time and thus no harm was inflicted. Apparently, the closure of the center at the time has no impact on their mission to alter and change the minds of those seeking reproductive health care.

If their intention was to use the rosary to pray for an end to abortion everywhere, why not do so in a place of worship or on campus where it would be more accessible to students? That wasn’t the object or intention of their efforts, however. Right to Life Club at Notre Dame, specifically those who participated in the vigil at Whole Woman’s Health, had a clear goal: public shaming.

“When a woman sees dozens upon dozens of young men and women praying for her across the street because they love her, though they may not even know her name, and ponders these things in her heart, she will be inclined to consider the life inside of her in a new light.

“Inclined to consider.” Soft language, but with a much harsher meaning. It has been proven, time and time again, that protests outside of the centers where women receive vital health care does little to change their choices, but can greatly alter their mental well-being.

It is unfortunate that our University continues to support these divisive and hurtful actions. Actions which can have drastic consequences and have a place in our wider South Bend community. Whole Woman’s Health will no doubt be a place of continued division. St. Joseph’s County’s Right to Life Club plans on regularly protesting the clinic, with “sidewalk counselors.”

All of these efforts, both on the part of the local community and fellow Notre Dame students, are cloaked in a vision of empathy and understanding, but actually take the form of public shaming and judgement. On a campus that already has so much misinformation, judgement, shame and fear, it is frightening that this rhetoric, shaded in a perverted vision of love, has taken hold within our on-campus student groups and spiraled into the rest of the local community.

Got something to say? Write it up and submit to irish4reprohealth at gmail!

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